The Nigerian Red Chamber yesterday and for the second time refused to confirm Ibrahim Magu as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) strongly condemns Senate’s action. It is victory for the monster called corruption. Senate has shown that it is not fighting corruption. On the contrary, it is fighting for corruption. By rejecting a firebrand anti-graft boss, our senators have sent out a wrong signal to the international community. But Senate has been too clever by half. It has exposed itself as an institution with skeleton in its cupboard.
A statement credited to Senator Akpabio in which he allegedly said, “Magu wants us to confirm him so he can use some of us for pepper soup” lends credence to our hypothesis. Akpabio’s alleged utterance confirms our worst fears. This Senate will not confirm any EFCC boss who refuses to withdraw cases involving its members. This Senate will not confirm any anti-graft boss who is not ready to treat senators as sacred cows even if they are corrupt. We also entertain the fear that these senators will not allow any other EFCC boss to function effectively even if Magu is removed.
Our suspicion has been confirmed by Senator Akpabio. Now we know why Senate rejected Magu. It is simply because our senators’ hands are not clean so they fear a no-nonsense anti-graft boss. Yet we know where Akpabio is coming from. He was invited twice by the EFCC last year after Leo Ekpeyong, an Abuja-based lawyer and activist, wrote a petition in which he accused Akpabio of looting a whooping sum of N108 billion belonging to the Akwa-Ibom government.
Apart from Senator Akpabio, eight other senators, including the Senate President, are facing corruption charges amounting to billions of naira. It is therefore paradoxical that a tainted Senate sits in judgement over the fate of the same man investigating not only its helmsman but also many of its members. What do you expect? Senate has not disappointed us. It has demonstrated its readiness to kill EFCC and any other anti-corruption agency that has the temerity to investigate its members.
The issue is not even Magu this time around. Senate does not want any agency investigating fraud anywhere around the red chamber. Senate wants its members to be untouchable. The first rejection of Magu was meant to serve as a yellow card from the senators and the message was clear, “Back off or we will never confirm you.”
Instead of compromising, however, Magu was not only barking but biting and very hard too. As a result of EFCC’s resilience, huge sums of money stolen by public officials have been discovered in cash in bunkers and in judges’ homes. Two fuel subsidy fraudsters have bagged ten years jail each. For the first time in the history of Nigeria, an ex-governor was sent to jail for fraud-related charges. Senators became alarmed. Seeing that Magu will not be intimidated, our senators are bent on denying him confirmation even if his name is presented a thousand and one times.
The excuse used by Senate to deny Magu that confirmation is neither here nor there. Somebody somewhere is playing Jekyll and Hyde. What caused the seemingly yawning lacunabetween the presidency and the Department of State Service (DSS)? Didn’t Aso Rock get a security report on Magu ab initio? Why should the whole affair be made to appear as if the DSS is working at cross-purposes with the presidency? Why is there no synergy? The DSS too may have questions to answer at the end of the day.
Nigerians must not allow this crop of senators to tarnish the image of this country. We must not allow them to drag us back to those days when every Nigerian who went abroad was treated like a leper. Transparency International (TI) ranked Nigeria the Most Corrupt Nation in the world in 2001. In 2003 Nigeria was ranked 2nd Most Corrupt Nation and in 2004 we were labeled 3rd Most Corrupt.
But the current war against corruption has been so vigorous and its impact has been felt around the globe. This has led TI to drop Nigeria’s corruption ranking to 39th Most Corrupt Country as Nigeria moved to 135 out of 175 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index of January 2017. This is commendable progress in our war against corruption. We should not allow selfish politicians to drag us into the abyss of shame again. Nigerians should resist Senate’s attempt to stop the good work Magu has been doing.
The alarming figures in senators’ jumbo pay and the secrecy of its budget indicate its unwillingness to share in the pains of this recession. Already, Senate is plotting to take the power to appoint the head of anti-corruption agencies from the president and to arrogate it to themselves.
This is definitely a dangerous trend in a polity where the hands of the senators are not clean. It is the president who conceptualizes the focus of his administration. He knows what he wants and he must be allowed to pick his men. Who picks his ministers for him anyway?
Nigerians should reject this crop of senators at the next general election. With the exception of a few senators, we are constrained to conclude that these are not the true representatives of the people. Nigerians want a Senate that will complement the efforts of the executive in its war against corruption. Nigerians now know that there can be no improvement in standard of living so long as corruption still reigns supreme and so long as members of the National Assembly not only aid and abet corruption, they are also neck-deep in corrupt practices.
For the war against corruption to be thorough, MURIC suggests that anybody facing corruption trial should not be allowed to contest in elections. Should they use technicalities to wriggle through and become candidates, the Nigerian electorate should also reject them at the polls.
We charge civil society, the media and religious leaders to speak out. Senate must tow the path of transparency, probity and accountability. We appeal to the international community to turn its searchlight on the Nigerian Senate and note how its members are frustrating the executive in its war against corruption.
As a final shot, we issue this red alert: the Nigerian Senate is not with the Nigerian people in the fight against corruption. Senate is protecting the narrow interest of its members who are facing corruption trial. Senate is not on the side of the electorate. It has elected to fight the very people who elected its members into the red chamber. Nigerian senators have become foot-soldiers for corruption thereby constituting a most potent threat to democracy.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)